An American mother and daughter aboard the cruise ship that grounded off the coast of Italy Friday described a scene of chaos as passengers fended for themselves to climb aboard lifeboats.
"The crew members were running around like the actual passengers," Maria Papa told Ann Curry live on TODAY Tuesday. "They couldn't answer any questions to anyone; there wasn't anybody speaking English...there was so much chaos."Video: Cruise ship survivor: ‘So much chaos’ (on this page)
Papa said she doesn't blame for the frenzied crew, instead citing lack of direction from the liner's captain, Francesco Schettino, who now faces possible charges for abandoning ship and manslaughter. At least 11 people died and up to 29 people are still unaccounted four days after the Costa Concordia's sinking.
"I think if the captain took more of a hand on it, then I think the crew would have been better able to understand what was going on," she told Curry.
Her daughter and travel partner Melissa Goduti, of Wallingford, Conn., told NBC News of the horror aboard the ship when it crashed against the rocks off the small island of Giglio Friday night: "You could definitely hear the boat hit something — it was like the boat leaned over at a 70 degree angle.
"Everything was pretty much falling; dishes were falling, trash cans were falling, everything was falling."
"There was no one in charge of our lifeboat," Goduti told Curry. "We had one (ship employee) who spoke English..and she ended up taking off and leaving. She said she needed to find her friends. So there's no one from Costa Cruise Lines who ever said, 'OK, stay at this lifeboat; this is what you're doing.'"Video: Cruise captain accused of abandoning ship (on this page)
Papa and Goduti managed to flee the ship; a particularly harrowing experience for Papa because she doesn't know how to swim. "We went to get on one boat when they had finally sounded the alarm, and the door would not open on that lifeboat," she told Curry. "Someone grabbed my hand and we went to the next boat."
While the pair made it to shore safely, Papa and Goduti are angry about reports that Captain Schettino exited the boat before the ship was cleared of passengers.Potential fuel leak a concern for Costa Concordia
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"It's just astonishing that someone would actually do something like that," said Goduti. Crew members, she said, didn't even seem to know where they were, alternately reporting they were off the coast of France or Italy.
"They had no clue," Goduti told Curry. "No one informed them. They said the captain (said) if it was an emergency he would sound the alarms. It took an hour and a half for him to sound an alarm."
An emergency drill was scheduled for the day after the accident, said Goduti.
"(On other cruises), within one hour of getting on board, it's mandatory, you have to go to this drill," she said. "They take your sea pass, they scan it and they make sure that every single passenger was there. And they tell you if anything were to happen, that you are going to scan your sea pass and we're going to know who got off the ship and who was still on the ship, so they know who to look for.
"(The Concordia sent) the crew members back on to find people who they've never accounted (for)."
Added Papa, "I believe the cruise should have been more prepared."
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